Traffic Cameras: Invasion of Privacy rights? You decide

Is the expanding use of traffic camera installations across the U.S. an invasion of privacy? This is the claim of a growing number of protesters who claim exactly that, while others including local governments and even the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) disagree.

Day by day this becomes a more contested issue affecting Americans in their everyday life. Arizona has had traffic cameras installed on state highways which netted the state $37 Million last year, and yet many of the state’s residents – as well as some law enforcement personnel – are strongly opposed to the system, and pressuring legislators to get rid of them. Legislative efforts have been made in Arizona to ban these cameras, and the State of Mississippi outlawed them a year ago. Other communities meanwhile, like Rochester, NY, are in the process of installing them currently.

The Fourth Amendment in the Bill of Rights is the framework for most of the claims of invasion of privacy.

Quoting from The People’s Guide to the United States Constitution:

Amendment 4.

The right of the people to be secure

[safe] in their persons, houses, papers, and effects [personal belongings] against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause[“probable cause” means a valid reason in presuming someone is guilty of some illegal act], supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Earlier, in Great Britain and in the thirteen Colonies, the government could search any person or place it wanted to search without legitimate cause or reason.  This amendment, however, only protects a person where the invasion of privacy is “unreasonable.” It is not considered unreasonable for the police to look into a person’s car or house after an arrest or to follow a suspected criminal across private property in order to make an arrest.

Does your Constitution protect you from traffic cameras photographing you driving in your neighborhood and on the highways? Does a state or local government have a right to photograph you in the name of public safety? Does a person surrender their “right to privacy” when driving on a public road?

How does the Fourth Amendment protect you in these circumstances? What’s your view on the use of speed/traffic cameras?